Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

The pumpkins are carved and the house is decorated.  The cemetery is glowing and the spiders are placed.   It is Halloween, the best night of the year.     The spells are cast and the curses set and all of our horrifying toy ghouls are out to protect us from the evil spirits that come on Samhain when the veil between the worlds thins and the ghosts come out to play. When everyplace becomes a haunted place and ghosts are as common as people.

So from our house to yours,  enjoy this beautiful night and may your evening be filled with ghosts, goblins, and everything else that is Halloween.  From Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett come have a shave and eat a meat pie and Have a very happy Halloween!



Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ghostly Book Store

I have so much to write about today I don't even know where to begin.  All the information is crowding my brain.  Last night we had a wonderful Halloween party and I woke up this morning feeling like I had been run over, which is the way you should feel after a good party.  I probably said several things I'll live to regret, but that is also a sign of a good party.  After a shower and the removal of the remains of my Mrs. Lovett costume I pulled myself together for my two book signings.  

The first book signing was at Coldwater Books in Tuscumbia, Alabama.  Tuscumbia is most well known for being Helen Keller's home town.    Coldwater books is in the center of downtown Tuscumbia.  This area has the kind of small town charm that is rarely seen anymore and Coldwater Books is part of this charm.  It is a beautifully maintained bookstore that makes me wish B&N would be destroyed and small, local bookstores like this one with a taste of the region would be allowed to grow again in their place.   I wish I had done my book signing before I wrote the book because people came in and as I signed their books they told me the most magnificent ghost stories.  Some I will blog about later because the deserve their own post, but some were short and sweet.   One woman told me of her first house, where every night a phantom would walk through the doorway and vanish.  Another woman told me of a haunted house that was so filled with ghostly activity it became the background noise of her life.

Amidst these stories, the owner of the little bookstore sat down next to me and told me the story of Coldwater Books.  Apparently, the location used to be used to make caskets in the 1800s and has been described as haunted by many.  The owner has never witnessed any paranormal activity, but a ghost hunting team came in once and stayed over night to study the store.   She said that they found the most ghostly activity in the back corner of the store.  She wasn't sure she believed in any of it, but she enjoyed being part of the adventure.  I did too and this was a very fun outing for me.  I also signed books at the very haunted and historical Sweetwater Mansion tonight.  But that is a story for another day.......

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pre-Halloween Breakdown

I usually try to stay fairly on topic with this blog.  I try to veer away from personal stories and go with the ghosts and ghouls, but tonight I'm far to tired to think clearly.  I have had a long day.  I am having my annual Halloween party tomorrow.  I have invited more people than I invited to my wedding.  I'm not sure why I did this.  I guess I just really like Halloween.  I must have forgotten how much I hate work and entertaining, which always seem to go hand and hand. Sometime today,  in between hanging up the electrical for the giant spider that leaps out at the children and taking my son on his field trip to the scarecrow trail,  DHL informed me that my costume would arrive sometime tomorrow between 8a-8p.  This precipitated a massive breakdown.

Plastic spiders flew through the air.   Grinning, bloodied skulls were hurled at a witch that predicted their early death as she collapsed on top of her own coffin.  I begged and pleaded with DHL.   Please, can't you just bring the package early?  Please, please, please?  No. No. No.  Halloween party starts at five and Halloween costumes arrive at 8pm.  That would be an obvious problem.   So I called the sitter and my husband and I went out to leaf through the sexy witch and giant boob costumes to find something.  We found nothing.   By the time I made it home, I was tired and irate.  I sent http://www.cosplaysky.com/ an email filled with so much frustration and anger that I think I caught the ocean between myself and them on fire. 

Of course, as soon as I had given up and climbed into my bed clutching my head, the costumes came.  DHL had pulled strings for me.  Somehow they had heard my desperation.  They heard and had sent a special truck just for me.   Shortly after, http://www.cosplaysky.com/ called to apologize for their late delivery and offered me special coupons to make amends, so it all worked out and I can go to be tonight and not worry about my party, because everything is going to be OK.  I will not be forced to be a sexy cab driver for Halloween and the bounce tent will be set up on time.  The haunted house will be scary and there will be enough beer and food.  I know all this, because if today could end on a good note, any day can.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Old Jail Ghosts in The Main Street Cafe

In the small town of Madison, Alabama there isn't much to the downtown.  The old buildings are reminders of quiet days when Madison was a tiny town unto itself.  These days Madison is more of a suburb than a town itself.  Everyone drives off to Huntsville to work and the little downtown area is mostly forgotten.  The Main Street Cafe in downtown Madison is one of the reminders of the old days.   It was the old jail house.  Inside the Main Street Cafe, the two chambers that used to be jail cells remain.  The doors have been removed but the barred windows remain.  You can eat in the jail cells.    The Main Street Cafe has been remodeled so the cells are the only pieces of the history to let you know that this  pretty, quaint eatery was once a jail.   Most people don't even know The Main Street Cafe was once a jail.  They enjoy the place for what it is.  The food is good and the atmosphere is pretty.   You can easily forget that the Main Street Cafe has a darker past.  The cafe was once a jail and it still has its ghosts.

According to employees of the pretty restaurant,  the old jail is haunted by a ghost they call George.   George isn't a particularly malevolent ghost, but he does like to mess things up.  He enjoys moving things so that when cupboards are opened in the morning everything falls out.  He enjoys moving objects in the kitchen so that the staff can't find them.  In general,  he just enjoys making a pest out of himself.   The staff didn't know who George was.  They weren't sure if he was a prisoner, but they know he likes to make life more difficult for those who have to work at this old jail.




Monday, October 25, 2010

The Boo Ball: Turning a Haunting into a Fundraiser

I am reviving an old blog tonight because one of the people in charge of raising funds for Birmingham public library wrote to me last week and invited me to join her for a haunted tour of her library and for a Boo Ball.  The Boo Ball is a fund raiser that will help raise money for the library.  It also takes advantage of the library's wonderful haunted history for a good cause!  I can't think of anything better.  So if you happen to be in the Birmingham area and are looking for something to do Saturday night consider going to this costumed event.  I have posted all the information below.  Here is the story of the real ghosts behind the library as I told it the night I slept across from the library:

The old Birmingham Public Library is one of the most striking buildings in downtown Birmingham. It's darkened windows seem to hint at movement even when the library is closed. Sitting across from the old Library two nights ago, I thought I saw a face staring out at me. I watched it and it watched me and for the longest time nothing happened. I took a picture and went to set the camera down and when I returned it was gone as quickly as it had come.


The building was built in 1927 and was the Birmingham Public Library until 1984. At this time the primary library was moved across the street into a modern building of glass and harsh angles. The two buildings are attached by a catwalk and the architectural differences between these two buildings that are connected like Siamese twins are so vast that they should be in different countries. But the two buildings are bound together by their common purpose.

In 1984 when the old building was partially abandoned it took on a new purpose and became the archives where the old books were stored and the history was kept. There are no stories of bizarre deaths here. There are no horror tales of Indian burial grounds or murdered children, but the ghosts that have been described in this building are so terrifying that some of the librarians have refused to go back into the stacks alone and without every light on. Many staff members know about the haunting in a general sort of way. They know that doors open and close on their own and phantom noises fill the building when it is empty, but a few report an even more active haunting.

The auditorium is the most haunted portion of this old library and it is in the auditorium that a young librarian described seeing a man appear out of nowhere. The librarian was mortified and she was even more mortified when he vanished as quickly as he came. An electrician also saw this man. He was working on the electrical problems that permeate the building when a man materialized in front of him and vanish again.

Other staff members, have described the elevator moving on it's own and the doors opening with no one in them.  The man that wanders the halls of the library is thought to be Fant Thornley.  Thornley was  a former director of the library in the 1950's.  He must have loved the library because his ghost seems to want to linger in this beautiful, old building.
 
If you are interested in attending the Boo Ball here is the information:  
 
Saturday October 30th at 7pm at the Down Town Library
 http://www.booballbhm.com/

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Little Haunted House

Every year a friend of mine and I get together and throw a Halloween Party together.  Actually,  last year was more of a practice run.  This our we are expanding our work and inviting more people and turning it into an event.  Part of planning this event has been turning a portion of my home into a haunted house.  This week we've got the wall up and most of the props up.   I still have a few more props to add, the bridge to paint, and the wiring to finish, but we are making progress.

I have some of the pictures of our work below.  We aren't done, but we are on our way.  The target age for this haunted house is 5-10 so there won't be any decomposing bodies or actors with chainsaws, but we're hoping the kids will have a good time while the grownups drink and act foolish.   Despite the target age, after looking at the pictures I do know I'm going to have to something about the Spongebob lamp.  Spongebob just isn't scary.  Now if it were Elmo.....






Friday, October 22, 2010

Zombies and Ghosts and Serial Killers, Oh My!

Last night I drove out to Meridianville, Alabama in the dark to find another haunted attraction.   This haunted attraction was made unnerving by its emptiness.  I'm assuming because it was Thursday night,  the parking lot was eerily empty.   We were the only ones going through this attraction and the loneliness certainly added to a feeling of fear and dread as I walked in the attraction.

The Haunted Gin is a mile long corn maze in rural Alabama.  It is filled with costumed actors and affects that jump out of the corn at you in the darkness.  My favorite affects in this maze included a hideous, giant monster thing that hung from the wall, a zombie actor reminiscent of the oil zombie from Return of the Living Dead, and an unnerving fat, bulbous serial killer that looked dead himself with a chainsaw.  The fat guy really put me off.  His costume was very, creepy.

I think this corn maze should have been scary.  All the ingredients for terror were there.  It wasn't as extravagant as Disturbia.  The props were cheaper and fewer, but the factors that contribute to fear were there in the darkness, waiting for you.  However,  last night was a beautiful night.  It was the kind of night us city dwellers see only when we are camping or backpacking.  There were so many stars in the sky I could navigate with them and the moon was full and brilliant.  The air was just cool enough to send a chill down your spine and make you long for winter.  It was perfect.  It was so perfect I found my eyes drifting up to the stars and away from the zombies.   Also, by the light of the full moon, nothing could really take you by surprise.  I might as well have been walking through the corn maze in the daylight.

So, The Haunted Gin had potential, but lighting is everything and with an outdoor attraction a beautiful night can spell destruction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Ghost of the Starved


I must have a strong influence on my son because he came back from the book fair today with a stack of books on ghosts and monsters.  We looked through these books today together and had a wonderful time.  My favorite section from his Horrifica book was on Japanese ghosts.  It is no surprise that the Japanese would have interesting ghost lore. The Japanese have some of the most wicked imaginations when it comes to ghosts and horror.  Just look at the best ghost movies, The Ring, The Grudge, etc.  They are all taken from the minds of the Japanese.  Any even cursory look into Japanese cinema reveals  a strong Japanese folklore filled with demons and ghosts.  Japanese folklore is filled with ghosts and perhaps the most terrifying of these ghosts is the Gashadokuro.  The gashadokuro is a ghost which is assembled from the bones of those who have starved to death.  Once these bones have been assembled to make a gashadokuro, it becomes a skeleton that is over 15 ft tall and is ravenous.  If it finds you, this monstrosity will eat your head.  The only thing that can protect you from the gashadokuro is to run when you hear the ringing in your ears that marks its approach.

The Gashadokokuro aren't the only terrifying ghosts in Japanese mythology.  According to Norman Rubin:

"Belief in ghosts, demons and spirits has been deep-rooted in Japanese folklore throughout history. It is entwined with mythology and superstition derived from Japanese Shinto, as well as Buddhism and Taoism brought to Japan from China and India. Stories and legends, combined with mythology, have been collected over the years by various cultures of the world, both past and present. Folklore has evolved in order to explain or rationalize various natural events. Inexplicable phenomena arouse a fear in humankind, because there is no way for us to anticipate them or to understand their origins.:


Kabuki theater is filled with stories of  vengeful women spirits that were wronged in life.  Koizumi Yakumo collected many of the famous classic Japanese ghost stories in the late 19th century.  You can find them at http://ghost.new-age-spirituality.com/japanese.html  .

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Case 39 Review

Halloween is the season for candy, haunted houses, costumes, and of course, scary movies!  I started my scary movie marathon with Case 39, an excellent horror movie staring Renee Zellweger as a social worker fighting to save children from difficult home environments.   I have to say, I'm a little biased because this movie hit very close to home for me.  I spent 2 years working as an  in home therapist for children at risk from being removed from the home by DHR.  I felt the main character's suffering and related to her and the therapist's and psychologists that ran the children's groups profoundly.  It is a hard job and often you lose more than you win in the battles to save children from their environment.

Case 39 gives you a character who is fighting this battle every day and is desperate to win and save the world one child at a time.  She is overworked and under paid and on top of her huge caseload she gets another client, case 39.   The main character relates to this case more than any other and goes above and beyond the call of duty to save a little girl from parents that clearly want to kill her.  When the system fails,  she enlists one of her close friends on the police force to save the girl and they find her parents trying to put the sleeping child into an oven.

Of course, our sweet, tragic girl is not what she seems.   It isn't long after Rene takes the tragic child in before the children on Rene's caseload begin to have horrible things happen to them.  It isn't just the children.  All those around her begin to die or suffer worse fates than death.  Case 39 was a good movie that I wouldn't mind seeing again.  It is definitely a good start to my Halloween horror fest!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Night of Haunted Houses!

Last night I went a little crazy.  I went to two haunted attractions.  My evening began with taking my two sons to the school haunted house.  The haunted house was put on by the Venture scouts and was actually pretty good.  For something that was made by eighth graders on a limited budget in a school cafeteria, it was very well done.   Sadly,   I went to a haunted house at the Space and Rocket Center a few years ago that was  about as well put together as this one.  It was mostly based on many costumed scouts jumping out of the darkness, but it gave my youngest son nightmares so it was probably even a little scarier than it needed to be for the age group it was targeting.  There was a kid in a clown costume that really scared the crap out of both my kids.


The second haunted house I went to was much more grown up.  There was a haunted house way out in rural Alabama that I always admired, but was never willing to drive over an hour to get to called The Haunted Manor.  Apparently,  the owners of the Haunted Manor closed down and one of the partners reopened in Huntsville, Alabama.  This haunted attraction is now called Distubia and features some of the most impressive props I've ever seen in a haunted house and this includes such professional haunted houses as the Ripley's Haunted House.  This haunted house featured a 40ft Satan holding screaming people by bloody stumps,  a native village with dinosaurs that jump out front he darkness,  an evil laboratory, many spinny hall things with dismembered, decaying corpses reaching out at you in your disorientation, a very impressive cemetery with a beautiful mausoleum and an enormous gargoyle that leaps at you when you approach, and the usual array of costumed weirdos screaming and raving at you from the shadows in attempts to make you jump. 

I can't say how scary this haunted house is because I really am numb to these things.  I realized this at the very beginning of this haunted adventure because about one minute into the haunted attraction some grown man screamed in terror and grabbed onto my jacket  in the darkness.  I was in the front and he was too afraid to walk through the damn attraction without clinging to me.  He was so afraid he practically tore my jacket off gripping onto me, I would have thought he was some kind of pervert if I hadn't have looked back and saw everyone else was clinging to whoever they could in terror.  They were all strangers to me and many strangers to each other, but all laws of social decorum were lost in the face of a decomposing hands reaching out at them from the walls.  I finally shook my tag along and pushed my husband behind me and took the lead, where I could better study the props and actors.  So, although I wasn't afraid, judging from the screaming and clutching behind me I have to assume that this was a terrifying haunted house.  I was also impressed by the full costumed band that entertained us with bad 80s hard rock while we waited in line.  Overall,  I think this is the best haunted house I've been to so far.  More to come next weekend,  I hope I go in with a slightly braver lot next week.  I really wanted to punch the man behind me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ghosts in the Towers- Spain's Legendary Paradores

Looming proudly atop a selection of Spain’s hills and mountains are some of the country’s finest hotels:  The spooky Paradores hotels. These were founded in 1928 by King Alfonso VIII, in his bid to make Spain more attractive to tourists, and are magnificent conversions of some of Spain's oldest and most majestic historic buildings into luxury hotels. Yet taking a vacation at one of these hotels isn’t always just a tale of majesty and repose. Deep within the Paradores’ weather-beaten walls are stories of the tragic deaths of pilgrims, monks, Dukes and Kings who have inhabited them.

The Alhambra is perhaps the most magnificent of the Spanish historic buildings. Once a Moorish palace, it is here that the famous writer Washington Irving was once a bohemian squatter, recording the history of these sweeping buildings and gardens perched high on the hilltop overlooking once-Islamic Granada in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It is here that the Moorish sultan discovered an affair between his favourite concubine and one of his courtiers. The lovers were parted and the courtier (along with his entire family) were executed. Some guests of the Parador have sworn they hear the ghost of the love-struck courtier still roaming the palace and grounds on still, moonlit nights.

Forbidden love is a powerful theme in the ghost stories of the Paradores. Perhaps the most well known is daughter of an 11th century Viscount. Although promised to a nobleman, she fell in love with a lowly governor (who was also a Moor – a double sin!). Her father locked her in one of the castle's tower (in the now Parador de Cardona), promising to release her when she consented to an 'acceptable' marriage. A woman of her convictions, she refused, and lived a long and lonely life locked away from her lover and the world. Her ghost is said to still inhabit the tower, some 900 years after she died there, and her desperately sad presence is often felt in room 712.

Photographs of mysterious spirits have been captured at the Parador de Jaen, a thirteenth century Arab fortress that was refurbished and opened to tourists in the late 1960s. Although no-one can figure out who these hapless souls are, or why their spirits still roam the halls, the haunted house in Belmez consistently records the impressions of women's faces on the walls and floors. Even when chipped away (as Maria Gomez found out more than 30 years ago), the faces return, with company.





Guest post by Escapio.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Fashion

I really do wish Halloween were everyday and the costumes below are why.  I would love to dress up every day.   Here are my pick of my favorite costumes I've seen so far this year.  I found many of  them on etsy.com and a couple of them at http://wearydrearies.deviantart.com//    I also found several including the costume I'll be wearing this year tat cosplaysky.com.  It is a shame we can't dress like this year round!  This post was inspired by a post by labyrinth creations and her post on the same subject.  














Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Building That Brought Poltergeist III and Ghostbusters to Life

While we were in Chicago I stayed in an old hotel right across from the John Hancock Building.   The Hancock building is an ominous structure that immediately gives you the creeps.   I knew it was evil the first moment I saw this building.  First,  I hated the ugly, black monolith.  And secondly,  the sign of hell's winter, The North Face store was on the first floor.

According to Ursula Bielski,  the building is cursed by more than over priced fleeces.  The very land the building is built upon was cursed by a man named Streeter before the building was even a whisper.   To make matters worse,  the building was built in a sinister trapezoidal shape which some occultists believe is evil.  Antone LeVey, founder of the Church of Satan had much to say on the matter.  Bielski had this to say about LeVey's feelings for the building.

" LaVey wrote many essays during his time as the Satanic Church’s leader, including fascinating analyses of the problems of modern architecture. LaVey knew--as most occultists do--that the trapezoidal shape holds significant power for arcane forces: traditionally, the shape is believed to serve as a doorway or “portal” for occult--or even diabolical--forces. As a young man, LaVey was fascinated with the thought of H.P. Lovecraft, whose horror novels often feature characters grappling with the dangers of “strange angles,” and it was Lovecraft’s work which led LaVey to first pursue his study of modern architecture’s sometimes deadly capabilities."

 
It is hard for me to take anyone to seriously who bases their religion on a fiction writer, but regardless of LeVey's credibility the building has seen many strange murders, deaths and suicides in its day.  It was also the inspiration for the movie Ghost Busters.  They based their building built to summon evil on the Hancock building.  The Hancock Building was also the place where the most horrible film, Poltergeist III was shot.  If that movie isn't proof of a curse, I don't know what is.  The movie Poltergeist is often said to be cursed.  Many of the main actors met their untimely demise shortly after the filming of Poltergeist III, including the girl who played Carol Anne.  Those that believe the Hancock building is a funnel of evil believe it was this building that cursed the cast of the movie. 

If you would like to learn more about the many deaths and ghosts that walk the halls of this diabolical building you can go to the site http://www.chicagohauntings.com/hancock.html  .   To learn more about the Poltergeist curse you can go to  http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/poltergeist.asp .  I'm not sure any building can be built for evil, but the Hancock building is certainly haunted,  to many strange deaths and occurrences have happened here to account for it any other way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Should I be Mrs Lovett?

So I bought my Halloween costume months ago, but I'm seriously tempted by this.  I love Sweeney Todd.  For the line,,, "The History of the world, my love, is those below serving those up above.  How gratifying for once to know that those above will be serving those down below."  alone.   So should I change my mind and be Mrs. Lovett?  I even have her insane curly hair.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Origins of Halloween Costumes

Halloween's history is most commonly traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain.  During Samhain, the Celts believed that the divider between this world and the next became thin.  This thinning allowed both malevolent and benevolent spirits to cross over to our world.  This naturally caused a good deal of fear and anxiety for the ancient Celts.  While family ghosts were welcomed, bad spirits had to be scared off.  Celts used bonfires to drive evil spirits off.  They also used apotropaic devices to scare off bad spirits.  

Apotropaic literally means to ward off evil but apotopaic devices are often devices that are so terrifying that they scare away evil.  My favorite examples of apotropaic devices are the gargoyles and terrible monsters that line the outside and insides of medieval cathedrals in Europe.  The most holy places in the medieval world were lined with horrifying demons and monsters that are often depicted devouring people and animals.  These horrors were so terrible that medieval people thought that even evil spirits would be frightened off.  

Costumes were used as both apotropaic devices and disguises to confuse the spirits.  In Scotland, young men interpreted the dead by blackening their faces.  These costumes evolved over the years and were eventually used in the late medieval practice of souling when poor people would go door to door asking for food.  This practice eventually evolved into costumed trick or treating.   So as you plan your costume this year remember that it should not only be interesting, but it should scare off evil spirits as well!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago's Forgotten Cemetery

Unbeknownst to most, beneath some of the most populated and heavily used land in the country, there lies the remains of a cemetery.   Chicago's old City Cemetery  used to occupy space that is now Lincoln Park.   Begun in 1846, it used to take up space that was on the edge of the city.  However, as the city grew and land came into high demand, a movement began to move the city cemetery.   In 1866,   this idea was shot down by courts and it seemed the cemetery would remain along this beautiful lake front property forever.   However, in 1871 something happened that changed everything.  In a small barn a fire began that moved into the city and devoured Chicago.  The flames of the inferno were so intense that only 3 buildings remain that stood against the all encompassing flames.  The fire devoured everything in its path.  People fled into the cemetery from the flames and jumped into open graves to escape.   But the fire had no mercy and the flames roasted those in open graves and even destroyed the grave markers.

After that there was no question as to the relocating of the cemetery. A massive disinterment effort began in 1872; in 1874, the last burial lots were condemned. The last acknowledged removals in this process occurred in 1877.  However,  many of the graves markers were lost in the fire so many bodies were not moved as part of this process and new construction in areas once belonging to the City Cemetery often reveals old corpses laying in unmarked graves.    It is no telling how many bodies still lay beneath the earth of the ground that was once the old City Cemetery.

Only the Couch Mausoleum remains as an official reminder of the cemetery.  Couch's family would not allow this tomb to be moved or even opened so it stands quietly in a lonely corner of an old park.   It is even a mystery as to how many bodies lay within the tomb.   Of course,  stories of ghosts and haunting proliferate in the area around the mausoleum where the dead still walk.  Our ghost tour told a tale of a phantom dog that wanders the grounds at night, leaping upon those that walk alone.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reviewing Ursula Bielski's Haunted Chicago Tours

Anyone who reads Haunt Jaunts on a regular basis probably knows that I am not great at making haunted tours work.  I wrote a blog for her on all the things not to do while traveling and planning a ghost tour.  This trip to Chicago, however,  I made it work.  I went on Haunted Chicago's Ghost Tour.  I was a bit disappointed I didn't get to ride on the wonderful black ghost tour bus, but I was excited none the less to see the dark side of Chicago.

Chicago does have a deep, dark side.  The best part of this tour was the history.  Chicago's history of gangsters and fire leaves a mark of sorrow in the city that lends itself to hauntings.  Our tour guide, Tommy was very knowledgeable about the history of the city and told the stories and history very well.   I was a bit surprised by the two tour guides, because other tours I've been on in the past have had a touch of theatricality about them.  In New Orleans,  our guide looked like something out of interview with a vampire.  Tommy, our guide, was just a guy.    I did have several issues with poor Tommy.   I hate to say bad things about people, but Tommy spent quite a bit of time talking about his theories behind hauntings.   He encouraged picture taking and told travelers that every orb in ever picture was proof positive of hauntings.  He said this tour must bring out the ghosts because everyone was getting so many orbs in their pictures.  Never mind that it's fall and pollen season and that most people believe orbs are actually a product of dust and other particulate in digital photography.   He didn't mention any of these things.  He just said we were all very good ghost photographers.  

Other theories Tommy supports are that haunted cities are "always" by water.   I have heard many haunting theories and surely this one intuitively makes sense, but since I love to follow desert haunted explorers Above the Norm and Autumn Forest I know that there are ample hauntings in the desert and being by a large body of water is not prerequisite. Since I've also travelled quite a bit and looked at haunted locations all over the country and some in other countries,  I know there are many amazing haunted cities that are not on water.  Also,  I enjoy the presentation of theory, but Tommy discussed all of his theories as if they were fact.  He didn't say I believe or according to legend.  He didn't mention there were other theories he merely states, "All haunted cities are located on water."  Tommy had many theories like this he discussed during the tour.  He discussed negative vortexes and other things as if every "ghost hunter"  believed and knew these things as fact.  I did try to talk to Tommy after the tour to try to clarify some of the statements he made or get a feel for why he was so vehement about his beliefs, but he literally ran away from me when I tried to talk to him.  He jumped on the bus and closed the door.  Maybe it was my third eye or I had something on my nose, who knows.

Despite my issues with Tommy,  the tour was nice.  It had some wonderful stops and I got some amazing pictures of Hull House.  I really enjoyed the depth of history on the tour and the choice of stops.  I will be writing about many of these stops this week.  All in all, it was a fun tour,  I just wish I'd gotten a different guide.

My favorite stops that I will go over more this week include:

1.  The City Cemetery:  The remains of a relocated cemetery that still may house unmoved bodies is now a park.  During the great fire many people burned to death in open graves while trying to escape the flames.

2.  Hull House:  Always fun, this haunted location mixes legend with fact to create a wonderful stop.

3.  Excalibur Nightclub:   Beautiful old building with a fascinating history

4.  John Hancock Center:  This was the inspiration for the building in Ghostbusters and you can get drinks there.

5.  Site of Eastland Disaster:  Tragic disaster resulting in 844 deaths left  many ghosts behind.

The picture below is  from Hull House.  Lots of ghostly activity on the stairs I think, but I open to other interpretations.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Chicago Water Tower that Survived the Fire

I ate dinner at a wonderful French restaurant in front of Chicago's historic water tower last night.  It was Steak au Pouvre with pomme fritte.  Yum.  I could travel the world for no other reason than to eat and look at buildings.  The building behind us, the water tower, is definitely worth the trip as well.   Between October 10, 1871 and October 12, 1871  downtown Chicago was destroyed by a massive unstoppable fire.   Due to its wonderful stone, Gothic construction the water tower was one of the few buildings not destroyed in the fiery inferno.  Apparently, Chicago was made mostly of wood in the nineteenth century and the water tower was one of the rare buildings made entirely of stone.  The water tower and the water pump station across the street are two massive, castle like structures that stand out of down town Chicago like a Gothic cathedral would stand out in Alabama.  The stone structure provided sanctuary to those fleeing the fire on October 10-12th. 

According Dylan Clearfield,  this tower that has born witness to Chicago's long history,  is haunted by those who died during the fires.   He believes that those who tried to reach the safety of the tower and failed still cling to the old structure finding the sanctuary in death there that they couldn't find in life.  According to Clearfield, ghosts have been seen in the windows of the water tower and they are sometimes even seen hanging by their neck.   There is no known reason for the ghosts to be seen in such a state, but the stories remain bearing witness to some haunted past that history has forgotten.    

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Story of Jack O'Lantern

One of the most common Halloween traditions is the placing of a Jack O'Lantern on the front porch.  On Halloween night,  these grinning pumpkins illuminate the street with their devious grins.  But where does this tradition come from?

The Irish brought the story of Jack O' Lantern with them from the old country.  According to legend, Jack was a mischievous man who spent his time playing terrible tricks on all those around him.  He knew his soul was in danger due to his terrible behavior, so he tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then surrounded the tree with crosses.   The devil was trapped and Jack was able to give him an ultimatum, spend eternity in that tree or promise you will never take my soul.  The devil promised he would ever take Jack's soul.

Time past and Jack spent his terrible life doing one bad thing after another.  When he died,  he went to heaven but St. Peter would not let him in.   Jack was desolate, so he went to the devil, but the devil honored his promise and turned him away.  Jack was left to wander the earth in darkness with only an ember he stole from hell to light his way.  He hollowed out a turnip and placed the ember in the turnip.  He became Jack O' Lantern who wasn't wanted by heaven or hell.

The Irish carved out turnips and beats every Halloween to scare away bad spirits like Jack O'Lantern and even gave the turnips his name.  When they cam to America,  they found pumpkins were much easier to carve than turnips and thus the modern Jack O' Lantern was born.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

5 Forgotten Halloween Traditions to Bring Back

Halloween is my favorite Holiday.  It has a very long history that is often forgotten.    Although Halloween's roots can be traced back to pagan practices,  it's name came from Christians.  Halloween was the time of year when the ancient Celts believed that the veil between this world and the "otherworld" became thin allowing for spirits to have more access to our world.  This was, naturally, quite terrifying to the Celts.  In order to protect themselves from the spirits,  people built enormous bonfires and cast bones into them to scare the spirits away.  They also dressed up as terrifying spirits to confuse wicked spirits into believing they were spirits themselves.  The Celts called Halloween Samhain.   It was the Catholics that came up with the name Halloween.  The early Christians were masters at taking local pagan holidays and integrating into their own Christian days.  Even Christmas was stolen from Saturnalia.   Catholics took Samhain and made it All Saints day, a day to celebrate the spirits of all the deceased saint.  All Hallow's Eve was the night before All Saints day.  The term All Hallow's Eve was eventually shortened to Halloween. 

Through Halloween's long history there have been many traditions that have been simply left behind.  This saddens me.  So here are some I think we should bring back.

1.Colcannon:   This is an Irish dish made with cabbage, kale, and potatoes.  Small coins and prizes are usually hidden in this dish making it a little treasure hunt.   I admit,  this dish sounds repugnant, however,  if altered slightly to regular potatoes the treasure hunt in dinner form is great fun for kids and adults.  Just don't swallow the pennies.

2. Barmbrack:   This is another food tradition.  It is a tradition Irish fruitcake baked into a ring.  Items are placed within the cake that for tell the future.  For example,  if you find the wedding ring, you'll be married soon. Finding coins predicts great wealth. 

3.  Tricking:  Back in the old days the trick in trick or treating had meaning.  People would hit the streets causing mayhem and playing tricks on people in their costumes and the only way to avoid the "tricking" was to give out treats.  What happened to the tricks?  Not saying  you should set your neighbor's lawn on fire or anything, but if stingy old Ms. Brown isn't giving out candy this year, some fake poo on her porch might be perfect.

4.  Bonfires:   Why not scare bad spirits away with fires?  Fires are fun.  I'm building a fire in my fire pit this Halloween.

5. Fortune Telling:  There are many types of fortune telling done on Halloween night, but one's fortune was always believe to be most easily predicted on Halloween.  Whether you were reading tea leaves, apple peals, or gazing into mirrors to see your future, a prediction made on Halloween was always accurate.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Hoping this Haunting is My Imagination

I fully believe in attribution bias.  I believe that we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear and when we believe in ghosts and hauntings,  evidence will present itself that supports our beliefs because we are specifically looking for evidence to support our belief.  I am very aware of these biases and try to look for rational explanations before I leap to conclusions.  I also admit that I am forgetful and may do things and forget I have done them.

However,  tonight I came home from cub scouts with my sons and every faucet was on in the bathroom.  I can't believe I would turn on the shower, both sinks, and the bathtub before I left.  I can't imagine why  I would do such a random act, nor can I imagine any rational explanation as to how this would  happen.  I could let this go, however.  I probably forgot turning everything on, right?   But later on I was sitting at the computer working on tonight's blog, which was supposed to be about Halloween, when the sink turned on again.  I'm sitting here.  I can see the sink.  There was no one there.  So  I ask all my readers,  is this just the product of my very active imagination and a passion for ghosts or should I be concerned.  I'm hoping its my imagination.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ghosts Beneath

I discovered something faschinating today.  Apparently,  there is an entire city beneath the streets of Chattanooga, TN.   In march of 1867,  the city of Chattanooga was completely flooded.   The city streets were totally submerged and everything grinded to a halt.   In order to get from one building to the next,  residents and tourists had to travel by boat.  This was a disaster on an epic scale, dozens of people died, livestock was lost and homes drifted away in the water.   It was a catastrophe and during these times there was no help.  Residents had to wait it out and pray that none of their loved ones vanished with the constantly moving waters.

According to Chattanooga writer, Cody Maxwell, sometime during this disaster the city came up with the idea of raising the streets of the city.   It seems that the flooded and waterlogged citizens decided that if they just raised half the city streets up 20ft it would take care of the flooding because the water would be under the streets.  Not only did they imagine this idea, they did it.   All of this was very poorly documented and it wasn't until one gentleman noticed that the top parts of windows and doors were sticking out of the street  that anyone remembered that a large portion of Chattanooga was under the street.  Twenty feet beneath Market street there is an entire city waiting to be discovered.

This underground city is a regular stop on the Chattanooga ghost walk.  According to the Chattanooga Ghost Tours,  there is an entire city of ghosts under the streets of Chattanooga buried beneath the roads like part of the lost city.  Their website  says, "We have had several guests get photos of orbs, faces, and even horses in underground Chattanooga"  

I'm hoping to go up to Chatanooga sometime in November and explore this underground city of ghosts.  There is nothing more fascinating than secret city buried in mystery and haunted by its past.